CIA Sets Changes To IG's Oversight, Adds Ombudsman
Saturday, February 2, 2008
The CIA's inspector general has agreed to tighter controls over its investigative procedures, agency officials revealed yesterday, in what appeared to be an attempt to soften resentments among agency officials over the watchdog's aggressive probes into the legality and effectiveness of the CIA's counterterrorism efforts and detention programs.
The revisions, which include the appointment of a special ombudsman to oversee the IG's work, were disclosed by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden in an e-mail sent to employees, announcing the end of an unusual inquiry into the performance of Inspector General John L. Helgerson, a 36-year CIA veteran and the man chiefly responsible for the spy agency's internal oversight.
The inquiry, begun last year, had raised concern among lawmakers who worried that the CIA was seeking to undermine the independence of Helgerson and his staff of auditors and inspectors. Helgerson angered top officials at the agency after leading aggressive investigations into the CIA's performance before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as its use of secret prisons and harsh interrogation methods against suspected terrorists.
Hayden, in the note to employees, praised Helgerson and his staff as being "committed to performing investigations . . . of the highest quality, integrity and timeliness," but said the inspector general had agreed on the need for changes.
"John has chosen to take a number of steps to heighten the efficiency, assure the quality and increase the transparency of the investigation process," Hayden said in the e-mail.
The changes include measures intended to speed up investigations and require the watchdog to keep CIA employees and managers informed about both the process and results of investigations. In addition to appointing an ombudsman, Helgerson also agreed to name a "quality control officer" who would make sure that reports "include all exculpatory and relevant mitigating information," Hayden said.
The agency did not make Helgerson available for comment, but CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the inspector general had "concurred with the director's statement and was comfortable with the steps agreed upon."
Helgerson, who joined the CIA in 1971, wrote a report that harshly criticized the agency for failing to anticipate al-Qaeda's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. That report, parts of which were released last fall under a congressional order, recommended that some CIA officials be held accountable for failing to do more to prevent the attacks. But the agency's then-management decided against sanctions.
Helgerson also drafted a classified report critical of the CIA's interrogation of top al-Qaeda suspects. The report said the use of waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation methods by CIA officers violated the Geneva Conventions' ban on torture.